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There ought to be a law against using the word “media” as a singular

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I read somewhere the other day that the use of the word “media” as a singular has become so widespread that it’s now considered grammatically acceptable.

Well, it’s not acceptable to me. It’s a Latin word, and it’s plural.

As I’ve argued here on previous occasions, using “media” as a singular (“the media is….”) only invites the notion that the media are a monolith. They’re not. There are all kinds of media, many of which differ from one another in numerous respects.

And yet, even journalists whom I otherwise respect are often heard to use “media” as a singular. Their bosses should order them to be more careful about that.

Let’s consider, for example, the widespread complaint among political conservatives that the mainstream media are — or “is,” if you insist — liberal. That allegation is preposterous on its face. Fox News is part of the mainstream media. It’s the most popular of the three cable news outlets — and it’s decidedly not liberal. The same can be said of the Wall Street Journal, the most widely-read daily newspaper in America. The same can also be said of talk-radio on the whole, which generally leans far right.

Yes, I understand that certain Latin plurals have become singulars through popular usage. The word “data” comes to mind.

But “media” as a singular only feeds the unfortunate misimpression that the media are all alike, especially in terms of political slant. They’re not.

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2 Comments

  1. People who understand Latin never die – they just decline.

  2. John Brown

    In academia the media is considered both an institution and a collection of various media, and if you’re speaking about the institution (e.g. American media is too violent) then it’s acceptable. Also you are making assumptions when you say the WSJ is the most read newspaper in America. It’s the most circulated newspaper in the country, but unless you are able to study everyone in America on a daily basis, you cannot make those claims, especially considering the online presence of the NYT and the availability of USA Today.

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